Thursday, December 15, 2011

161 Hours

Until I head out to the airport for my flight to Heathrow. Where I will catch my flight to Seattle.

Before I leave however, I will need to finish my quantum mechanics assignment, due tomorrow at noon, write a 1500 word paper due on the 21st, and at least start my thermodynamics assignment due on January 16th. Shouldn't be too bad, but that doesn't make it any less annoying, that I'm so close to the end yet have these 3 large roadblocks to pass.

I had my final on Tuesday, which went pretty well. I shouldn't have any surprises when grades are reported for that class. I also just got back from turning my my dynamics and relativity assignment. So with 2 big things down and 3 more to go, I'm getting close.

If only I could find a way to speed up these 160 or so hours.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Summing up Paris

It was a pretty cool city. By far the two coolest things were the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triumph. But before I forget everything here's a detailed run down of my 4 days. All my photos are in the link at the bottom.

My flight left Edinburgh at 7:25am and I got into Paris at 10:40, (+1 hour time change, the flight wasn't that long). I managed to get some studying done on the plan which was convenient. RyanAir was definitely not as bad of an airline as I had expected. Sure they cut some corners with things, for instance they don't have those little pockets below the tray tables and the emergency procedure it printed on the back of each seat, but other than that not a whole lot is lost. I had the who row to myself so I could spread out some which was also awesome. After a short flight I landed in Beauvais. Which is a very small airport north of Paris, surrounded by farmland. The whole flight all I could think of was how roughly 65 years ago guys my age were jumping out of planes in areas like this to stop the advancing of the German army. It was a fascinating train of thought. One which I was sure to discuss with my friend Luka when I meet up with him later that night.

Having landed and changed my money to euros I headed outside to catch the hour long bus ride to Paris. It was actually a nice bus ride through the French countryside. And before I knew it we were in Paris. Finally there, I left the bus station and headed to the Arc de Triumph to catch my bearings. The Arc was easily one of the most impressive pieces of architecture I have ever scene. It is HUGE, and incredibly detailed. Being Sunday a trip to the top was free, so after figuring out how to cross the 5 lane roundabout surrounding the Arc I ventured to the top. The view was amazing, and quite helpful as it showed me how to get the the Eiffel Tower, and from there I was pretty sure how to get to my hotel. After taking some pictures and admiring the view I set off for the Eiffel Tower. A short walk later and I was there. This thing is super cool. Completely made of metal and completely symmetric it is one of the best things these two eyes have ever seen. After staring for 5 minutes maybe and hour, I made my way to the hotel. A sweet little place, 5 minutes from the tower. After checking in I dropped off my bag and headed back out the the city.

With about 9-10 hours to kill before meeting up with my buddy Luka I started looking for things that we wouldn't do in the next few days. Small things that I wouldn't see otherwise. But before I headed out I fell asleep for 3 hours. Convenient because now I only had 6-7 hours to clear. I ended up going to the Paris Aquarium, which was okay, I'm probably spoiled growing up so close the the aquariums in California, so this one wasn't that impressive. After that I went to an architecture museum which was far more impressive. Most likely because I'm still a sucker for detailed models of buildings. And this place was full of them. It also had what I think were recreations of other famous architectural bits from buildings around France. It was hard to tell because I can't read French (something that was becoming more and more of a problem in this city I was noticing). Those two things ate up a few hours, so I headed back to the Eiffel Tower and hoped on a boat tour on the Siene. Which was quite informative. After that I only had about an hour to kill so I wandered around the Eiffel Tower some more. Luka was unfortunately late due to travel delays but no big deal I wasn't too bothered waiting under the Eiffel Tower. Still operating on Spain time he and his friends, who were quite nice, were really hungry for dinner despite it being almost midnight. We went out got some food and then headed back to our places of residence for some sleep.

Woke up around 9 to meet up with everyone at 10. Showered and noticed an odd design flaw in my hotel room's toilet. The counter over the toilet got in the way of the seat going all the way up, which meant unless it was held up it would fall closed. Amusing yet annoying. After getting ready I made my way to the Tower to meet the gang. First thing we did was made our way back to the Arc. Which I had no problem with. After that we headed down the Champs Elysees, where there was a lovely holiday street market going on. We made our way to the Pont Alexandre III bridge. Which was lovely. After that we wondered around some more until we found our way to Notre Dame. Which was awesome. Lovely glass windows, super cool interior, lovely building. It was nice to see a building in person that was focused on so heavily in my pre-architecture days. It was also nice in this season, as there were lots of Christmas trees around, and the interior was full of large nativity scenes. After Notre Dame we made our way to the Pantheon. Which was really cool. Except it was rather expensive to enter, and Luka being a Croatian citizen got to enter for free so he ran in and snapped some pictures for us to see. Then we headed to the Luxembourg Palace. Which unfortunately was closing just as we got there.  Bummer. We headed back to the place the rest of the group was staying at for a quick break before dinner. It was a super nice apartment that belonged to one of the girl's godmothers.

We rested there for a few hours then met up with another girl from UW who was actually studying abroad in Paris. Which was perfect because now someone in the group spoke/understood French. Crucial. She took us to a small fondue place outside of the main Paris district. On the way we had to take the metro. After struggling to find a metro entrance that sold tickets we decided to jump it. Obviously the girl from Paris had a pass so she got in and taught us how to get past the gate. After 2 of us jumped through it was my turn. I screwed up and the doors clamped on my shoulder. And they clamped hard. At first it was rather comical but now I'm actually dealing with an surprising amount of pain in my shoulder. Finally we realized that the floor was pressure plated so as long as someone stood on the other side of the gate, it would let you pass backwards. So we did that, with no more clamped members. We made it to the fondue place, which was interesting. Having never had fondue I can now say, that I am not a huge fan. Seems like there are better ways to eat bread and cheese, but it was authentically french so I was okay with it. The really interesting part of this place was that they served you wine in baby bottles, which was funny. After dinner we headed back to the apartment and hung out for a few hours.

Where we discovered that tragically we discovered that the Louvre was closed on Tuesday. And as it was already late we sat and came to terms that we would not be able to see the Louvre. Quite sad. We got over it though and discovered that more UW friends of ours were in Paris, so we meet up with them at their hotel suite. Evidently one of their dads works for the UN and has connections in Paris, and scored them a nice deal. We drank there until the wee small hours of the morning, all of them except me being on Spain time they were used to staying up drinking until 4-6am. I on the other hand was not. But thankfully 2 of the girls wanted to head back to the apartment and go to bed so I left with them around 4. Which was kind of cool because the streets were empty and the Eiffel Tower was still lit. It was a fun day but I was very ready for bed.

Needless to say we got off to a slower start that day than we had the day before. Meeting under the Eiffel Tower at 11:30 me and Luka headed off to do some exploring, the rest of the group was going to meet up with us at around 3:30 at the D'Orsay museum. Luka and I headed back to the Christmas market to get lunch, and started wandering down in the direction of the museum. We decided to kill more time we would go to the Louvre at least just to see the outside. Which was still pretty cool. We wandered around the Louvre Park for an hour or so, then as the rain clouds started encroaching, we went back to Notre Dame, where we sat as the rain passes us by. It was convenient. We then headed over to the museum to meet up with the rest of the group. The D'Orsay was pretty cool. I'm not tremendously into art and Luka and I were pretty exhausted so we breezed through the paintings and ended up sitting at every bench we came across. We ended up seeing everything just before the museum closed which was awesome. We met the group outside and headed back to the apartment for another rest.

After a few hours of downtime we headed out for dinner. We had researched and found a small french place to get some more authentic food. After a long walk we found the place. Remarkably small, and with absolutely zero English speaking ability it was actually rather stressful trying to order. We made it through the ordering process and were delighted that we did a good job deducing what was what. I had some beef roast with potatoes and everyone else had some chicken curry with noodles. It was really good. Then I wanted to have some French dessert so I ordered some Creme Brulee. It was AMAZING. So good in fact that every single other person in the group ordered one as well. After dinner we headed back to the apartment and parted ways. As they had a 8 am train to Amsterdam and I was a zombie. After the goodbyes I went back to my hotel and died into the bed.

Well my flight was at 2pm, and I needed to catch the bus to Beauvais at 11, so I slept in a little then headed out. Caught the bus, and got to the airport. Our flight was a little delayed but not too bad. Before I knew it, I was back in Edinburgh. And my god is it good to be back in an English speaking country. Although it's freezing here....

Well now its time for me to start studying for my final and getting everything done, because in 2 weeks from tomorrow I make my triumphant return stateside for Christmas!

Hope you all had a nice week.

Here's my pictures:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Short Update

So I leave for Paris in the wee small hours of the morning, and having forgotten that I needed to write a post today this will have to be rather brief.

This was a good week, last week of school for the semester. No complaints there. I also may have found a part of physics that I might want to pursue. Quantum Computing. A fascinating field, read up on it on Wikipedia if you feel so inclined. This of course is helpful because it should help fuel my revision for my quantum mechanics class. Which was one of the hardest and most confusing courses I have taken to date, but obviously is a crucial building block to quantum computing. So all in all it was a nice week. It was also especially nice because this means that the only remaining obstacles I have before my return home are 1 exam, 2 assignments, 1 short paper and 1 more assignment. Sounds like a lot but it really shouldn't be too bad. Three more weeks.

Upon my return from France on Wednesday I will write a proper post. Until then... well occupy yourself with something other than my blog.